“The Possessions” by Sara Flannery Murphy

Cover of 'The Possessions' by Sara Flannery Murphy, featuring a dark-hot pink shade of lipstick being applied to the lipsBook: “The Possessions” by Sara Flannery Murphy
Published by Harper
Genres: Ghosts, Literary Fiction, Romantic Suspense
Format: Hardcover, 368 pages
Rating: 3/5 ⭐
Source: Book of the Month

In an unnamed city, Eurydice works for the Elysian Society, a private service that allows grieving clients to reconnect with lost loved ones. She and her fellow workers, known as “bodies“, wear the discarded belongings of the dead and swallow pills called lotuses to summon their spirits—numbing their own minds and losing themselves in the process. Edie has been a body at the Elysian Society for five years, an unusual record. Her success is the result of careful detachment: she seeks refuge in the lotuses’ anesthetic effects and distances herself from making personal connections with her clients.

But when Edie channels Sylvia, the dead wife of recent widower Patrick Braddock, she becomes obsessed with the glamorous couple. Despite the murky circumstances surrounding Sylvia’s drowning, Edie breaks her own rules and pursues Patrick, moving deeper into his life and summoning Sylvia outside the Elysian Society’s walls.

After years of hiding beneath the lotuses’ dulling effect, Edie discovers that the lines between her own desires and those of Sylvia have begun to blur, and takes increasing risks to keep Patrick within her grasp. Suddenly, she finds her quiet life unraveling as she grapples not only with Sylvia’s growing influence and the questions surrounding her death, but with her own long-buried secrets.

Remember the promising book that wound up, uh, not so great?

I was promised ghosts, but merely got people possessed—post temporarily and with the risk of permanently—instead. I don’t think possession falls into ghosts, even if it’s someone’s spirit. It was a total letdown in that respect.

I really did not like this book at first.

The first 100 pages was a game of cat-and-mouse: I loved it, then I got annoyed.

Murphy’s writing falls into that “trendy” sort of writing, wherein people write how they talk and create sentences that don’t make any sense—the ones beginning with -ing words, the last clause also beginning with -ing words.

Example of actual paragraphs:

My past self hanging back in the corner of the room, watching me and summing me up. Gauging which parts of me have grown. Which have stayed the same.

Then we have lists. Instead of colons, then commas and/or semicolons, we get periods:

Opening the door, I assess Room 12 with a practiced gaze. The suites at the Elysian Society hint at familiarity without fully resembling anyone’s home. Dark hardwood floors; a framed painting of water lilies floating on gem-bright water. Two low-slung armless chairs face each other in the center of the room.

Whilst I’m currently in a love/hate relationship with him and his writing, this book made me understand Henry James’ use of sometimes over-30-word sentences. I mean, I even used one myself recently, even though it was a list.

The sex scenes were really awkward.

Perhaps it’s due to my asexuality, or my general inability to read serious sex scenes without laughing, but I felt like a voyeur in this woman’s sex life. Since the character development is seemingly nothing (see below, re: metaphor), I know nothing about Eurydice (Edie)—why this client is who she breaks the rules with, why he intrigues her, her sudden attraction to him, her lust to be closer to him. Thus, I feel more like I’m there, forcing myself to try to sleep with some stranger just because he was a client.

(I’d have preferred fading to black.)

The entire novel is a metaphor for Sleeping Beauty.

I’m so glad I watched the 2011 rendition of Sleeping Beauty before reading this book, for if I’d not, I never would have considered fairy tales in such subtle, yet humanistic forms.

The first 100 pages is like, “Oh, okay…” It’s a constant battle of seeing potential, but debating whether such is a possibility with what you’re given right now: based on the text you’re reading, can you adequately determine whether the book should be abandoned or continued? I almost abandoned it—repeatedly. That minuscule curiosity of possibility reeled me right back in, though—the much-hoped-for doubt that all of this would be worth it.

Two hundred pages strike, and things grow interesting: I’m transfixed, betwixt—I still want to put it down, but something stronger is holding me against the book.

Until the last hundred pages, nothing makes sense. There is few character development on anyone’s parts, all the plots—major and minor—slow-moving and tasteless.

Who I thought was “bad” wasn’t; who I thought was good wasn’t; who I expected to be innocent wasn’t.

Her prince isn’t a prince at all.

Edie’s saved from herself. To die would be awfully easy, but it’s not until this client that she aches to survive and live life to the fullest—that she wants to want without guilt.

I couldn’t relate to Edie at all until the end.

Few people understand the depths to which I do, but I relate to the major underlying themes: multiple personality disorder, psychosis/out of body experiences; major underlying themes to which I relate without secrecy: no longer being my given name, estrangement from my mother, suicidal thoughts and tendencies, a guarded/reserved personality.

Like Edie, when people accuse me of things or attempt to call me out on my faults, ignorant of whatever secrets—dark or light—I may hold, I hold them in. Like Edie, I decide to hold it what I was going to share when people think they’re giving me the go-around—what would it change, after all?

So: Did I like this book?

I really don’t know.

The genre categorisation is all off; it’s more of a psychological thriller than anything else.

If Sara Flannery Murphy writes anymore psychological mindfucks, count me in.

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Kya’s gravatar

I find it so conflicting when I read a book and part of me is so annoyed with it, and the other part wants to know what happens and has to read it all. I guess the writer has managed to lure us in and worked on some level, just not others.

The book sounds so interesting. It’s a shame that it wasn’t as good as it could have been. Especially being so slow at the start. Plus, it doesn’t sound that it was really on par with the description. :/ At least you were able to relate to the character at the end.

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Liz’s gravatar

Ah, yeah, the description was off. It’s not that it was bad, but it wasn’t wonderful, either. Nothing made any sense until the last third, but if I went into detail, I’d reveal too much of the “big reveal”. ?

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